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5 Advertising Integrations Used In Video Games

By Adam Dawson
It's the year 2014 and iconic special operations soldier Solid Snake is on yet another mission to save the world from his diabolical twin brother, Liquid. Saving the world doesn't come so easily for Snake these days as he suffers from Werner's syndrome, an autosomal recessive progeroid syndrome that causes premature aging. Even with the help of nanotechnologies implanted in his body, fighting technologically enhanced super soldiers gets tiring, especially when you're slowly dying. It's times like these when Snake likes to whip out his Apple IPod and take a breather while listening to his favorite jams...

As you can see from this anecdote, advertisers have been making their presence within video games. Although advertising in games has been around since the dawning of the industry, it hasn't seen as rapid of growth and success as it has in the past 10 years. Offering low CPM rates and the potential to increase notoriety in the 13-35 age demographic, this space has become extremely sought after by companies when monetizing their brand. Currently, there are five ad integrations that have proven to be most effective in doing so.

Static In-Game Advertising
First introduced in the 1978 PC title Adventureland, these advertisements are permanently coded into a game and cannot be altered unless the title is specifically online. This form of advertising is similar to product placement in movies or television programs. Ads generally come in the form of a billboard, poster article of clothing endorsing a brand, or sideline advertisement in a sports game.

Static in-game advertising is common in racing simulators like Forza 5.

However, unlike in traditional media, video games allow consumers to interact with a digital product. Some examples include the ability to customize and wear your own Adidas, Nike and Air Jordan brand basketball shoes the NBA 2K series, monitor time with a Timex watch in Shenmue, and buy a shot of Sky vodka or a glass of Jack Daniels in Yakuza 4.

Sometimes, interacting with these digital representations of real life products is necessary in order to progress through campaigns.  Interaction isn't essential in some cases, but it can help the player by making a specific task easier, increasing character attributes or replenishing hit points. A bizarre example comes from the Japanese version of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker where protagonist Big Boss can eat Doritos and drink Mountain Dew to regain lost health.

Dynamic In-Game Advertising
This integration, unlike static IGA, was introduced much later to the industry. Advancements in gaming technology allow ad agencies to add, remove and alter advertisements whenever they feel it's necessary. Since these ads don't need to be hard coded in a title months in advance, it allows more flexibility for timely campaigns. If a movie or a product is launching within the next few weeks, an ad can be created and placed in a game at the agency's will instead of solely during development.

Dynamic advertising also opens opportunities for data collection, allowing advertisers to see how gamers respond to their advertisements. Information such as time spent observing, viewing angle and total number of views is recorded and analyzed by agencies that later use the figures to create more effective ad campaigns.

Both static and dynamic IGA have proven to be the most successful methods of video game advertising. In just under ten years, spending on this form of advertising has gone from $56 million to nearly $1 billion, according to advertising company Massive Inc. Also, Global information and measurement company, Nielsen Holdings, reported that Gatorade's sales spiked 24 percent in 2010 after placing advertisements in EA Sports' titles NHL 10, NBA Live 09 and NBA Street: Homecourt.

Rather than placing a product or an advertisement in a game, advergaming is the creation of a game for the sole purpose of advertising a product. These games are generally short and simple and come in the form of web-based flash games, mobile apps and console titles. The games provide chance for consumers to interact and become engaged with a brand, and are usually successful in increasing website traffic.

Chipotle's arcade styled, mobile game, The Scarecrow.

Many intriguing advergames have been developed over the past years. Redken, a hairstyling products company, sponsored a Nintendo Wii and DS game that teaches players how to style hair using Redken products. Another interesting example is how Sony Pictures released an episodic online game to promote the release of their film Salt in 2010. There were nine episodes, each being released weekly nine weeks before the movie hit theaters.  

Like IGA, advergaming has been around since the beginning. Many of these games were developed on the Atari 2600 console in the early 80s. Some early examples include Pepsi Invaders, Purina's Chase the Chuck Wagon and Kool-Aid Man. More recent examples include the Burger King's King series, Chipotle's Scarecrow, and Coors Light's 1st and Cold.

Product Development
Sometimes it isn't enough to merely place a product in a game or create an advergame based around it. Some companies take the next leap and create new products based on a specific title. These products create a symbiotic relationship between game makers and other companies because they promote the game while giving fans of the title or series incentive to buy them.

Advertisement for Jeep's Call of Duty themed vehicles.

The products are usually based off a company's line of products, but include symbols or decals that relate to the game. Some examples of this are the limited edition 2011 Jeep Wrangler Call of Duty Black Ops model and numerous clothing lines by Musterbrand that are based on Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Gran Turismo and Deus Ex.

Through the Line Advertising
Perhaps the rarest form of advertising in video games, through the line (TTL) marketing uses URL hyperlinks to influence players to visit a website. These websites contain below the line (BTL) advertisements, which are efficient and cost effective when targeting a specific group. These are sometimes referred to as link chases because the URLs lead gamers to websites with further links.

Methods to draw players in differ from game to game. One example comes from Pikmin 2 where the consumer is given cryptic messages accompanied by URLs, increasing their curiosity and inclining them to visit the site.

Another example comes from Enter the Matrix where URLs are included in the background of the game. These URLs lead to sites that reveal certain plot details that can only be learned from the site. Though this info isn't required to complete the campaign, it fills in missing details for fans.

Video game advertising, like the industry itself, will continue to grow and evolve. Advertising within this space allows consumers to interact and engage with a brand instead of merely visualizing it. Through hours and hours of gameplay, a brand has a larger chance of being imprinted in someone's mind rather than through a 30 second commercial or roadside billboard. Using the 5 integrations discussed gives a company a greater chance to spread their brand across a large audience and increase notoriety.

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Adam Dawson is a media strategist with Emerging Insider Communications. He is extremely passionate about video games and has spent countless hours in front of screens without regret. He aims to combine his passion for gaming with his talent for writing to deliver exceptional news content on the video game industry.
Related Keywords:video game advertising, ad integration, in-game advertising, advergaming

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